§ Широкогоровы §
toggle menu

100. Hypothesis: Shamanism Stimulated By Buddhism

We have seen that the complex of shamanism, as observed among the Manchus and Northern Tungus, is a relatively recent one. We have also seen that this complex consists of a great number of elements which may be entirely brought back to the original source of borrowing — Buddhism. Yet, we have also just seen that Buddhism made its appearance among the populations of Manchuria and of neighbouring regions many centuries ago and apparently prior to the epoch when saman was for the first time mentioned in Nuichen and prior to the moment at which the Manchus recognized the existence of shamanism (1033 A.D.), while it spread among various ethnical groups -the southern and northern Tungus, the Mongols, and some Palaeasiatics as a complex, or in its elements, as far as the southern regions of the Yakuts' area. The first inference which may be made is that there is evidently an intimate connection between shamanism and Buddhism. The question is now as to the character of this connection.

This question may be put in two ways, namely, (1) is it a connection which is due to the common elements borrowed by the creators of shamanism, or (2) is Buddhism responsible for the existence of shamanism as a powerful stimulus. If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, another question will arise, namely: what was the complex of shamanism before the influence of Buddhism brought it to its present state, and what sorts of shamanism existed among the different groups before the penetration of Buddhism? True, we have but a few facts, but all of them lead to the conclusion that at that time no shamanism, in the above defined sense, existed. In fact, the Nuichen Emperor Si-Tsong, in his opposition to the penetration of Chinese influence, pointed out that the sacrifice to the Heaven and Earth was the original practice of the early Nuichen [550]. It is remarkable among all Northern Tungus here described that only the «spirit of heaven», buga, has no direct signs of alien influence and is recognized by an Tungus as a fundamental Tungus element. Another element, common to all Tungus, and which cannot be directly connected with Buddhism, is that of the managing of souls of dead people. All Tungus groups recognize it as an old practice. The Birarchen say: «Before the Tungus (evenki) had only buga and buni». However, this element is not particularly a Tungus one, and it may be supposed that the Nuichen, who practiced churial, also possessed the complex of the soul. So that there were at least two complexes — the spirit of heaven, a single God, and the souls of dead people to be cared for. All other spirits which are not mastered by the shamans, like baiE nacha, golumta, inmunkan, irlinkan, j'iachi, and others, are so foreign that their names can be easily brought to the original sources of borrowing the Tungus themselves indicate an alien origin of such a «fundamental» Tungus spirit as malu. In so far as the analysis of these facts goes we cannot give any satisfactory evidences for including some other spirits into the original Tungus complex. However, I hasten to point out that this negative indication cannot suffice for asserting that originally there were only the two above indicated complexes, and the belief of the Tungus that there were only these two complexes may be discredited by saying that other complexes may have been lost, e.g. replaced by the now existing ones, and that the Tungus have not preserved any remembrance of them. Perhaps such a scepticism will be too great. We also find no early evidences as to another important condition of shamanism, namely, the idea of mastering of spirits and their introduction at will. It is not mentioned by Si-Tsong, and the Tungus are unanimous in asserting that originally the art of mastering the spirits did not exist among them, but was practiced among their neighbours, e.g. the Man-chus, Dahurs, Buriats and Yakuts, and especially by lamas [551]. The absence of shamans in the earlier Tungus complex does not imply that there were no wizards, old experienced medicine men (even without any attributes conventional among the ethnographers who generalize strange phenomena under the names of «shaman» and «medicine-man»), and specialists who knew methods of sacrifices to buga and buni. However, in the conditions of life of hunters-wanderers the existence of professional priests is almost out of question. In fact, every Tungus knows how to pray to buga and how to make a sacrifice, and every Tungus knows how to manage souls of dead people. Moreover, among all Tungus groups the shamans have nothing to do with buga, and among most of them they interfere with the dead souls only in case of trouble, when the soul does not go straight to the world of the dead, usually in consequence of the interference of other spirits. Moreover, the lack of shamans does not imply that there existed no other spirits, like those formed from the souls of dead people whose bodies were not buried in a proper manner. So that an exclusion of the shamans from the present Tungus complex would not mean that nothing would be left of the spiritual complex and various methods of fighting diseases and human miseries. It is very likely that some of those functions were taken over by the shamans, just as at present some shamanistic functions are taken up by mafarism and various religions.

There is a very interesting fact, namely, the formation of p'oyun saman in the Manchu complex which offers some new light too. In fact, these specialists for the rites of the Imperial fa-mily were known under the name of mere saman. Their functions were exactly the same as those of the Manchu p'oyun saman, but it was also their duty to take care of temples and to perform much more ceremonies than those observed among the common Manchu. Indeed, such an elaborated system of ceremonies with a large number of saman employed for this purpose, was needed by the Imperial family, because the Manchus had to have their own complex and such one was the Imperial Family. On the other hand, a new institution could have been established only after the Nuichen downfall, for as has been shown the Nuichen Imperial family did not accept an open intrusion of Buddhism. The last emperors of the Kin, Chang Tsong (in 1194 and 1204) and Hsiuen Tsong (in 1215), under the pressure of an influential group, had formally to introduce the Chinese cult of the Sun, Moon, Wind, Rain, and Thunder, i.e. that of the earlier Chinese Emperors and that of Confucius, but Buddhism was again left aside. (Ch de Harlez, Religion, pp. 59-60). However, the shamans are mentioned as Nuichen «sorcerers» prior to the collapse of the Kin Dynasty. Thus the shamans existed prior to the elaboration of the Imperial ritualism of the Manchu Emperors. What was then the nature of this new complex? We have no evidence, except thst of Ch'ien Lung who pointed out that the rites of veneration of Heaven, Buddha and the spirits vecheku, which existed from the time of the foundation of the dynasty in Mukden (beginning of the seventeenth century), were altered at his time so much that it was necessary to secure the assistance of old men who might help in its restoration (Ch. de Harlez, o. c, pp. 61-63). To what extent these rites were altered we do not know, but one thing is evident, namely, that the complex of the Imperial Family in Peking could not be the same as that of villagers, for the Imperial family could not have many elements characteristic of what the Chinese literati used to style as simple «sorcery». The imperial ritual had to be made similar to that of the high Chinese class which accepted a worship of ancestors and Buddha. The saman were ennobled and turned into priests. When the worshiping was regulated and legalized, it began to spread among villagers, who again with their spirit characteristic of clan organization introduced their own variations in the form of a simplification of the ritual and a change of the list of spirits, which, according to their idea «must be different in every clan». The priest received the name of p'oyun saman, a group of which was headed by da saman and definitely opposed to the ordinary saman of olden days, who may now be also called amba saman, i.e. «great shaman». Why did the Manchus need to make a specification: p'oyun? It is clear: saman, as a starter («symbol»), was already occupied by the shaman and there was no other special term for the clan priest proposed by the Imperial decree, except saman. If Ch'ien Lung expected to abolish the practice of real «shamanism», in the eyes of «civilized Chinese» quite a barbarous complex by the introduction of priests named saman, he completely failed, for the Manchus assimilated both complexes. Moreover, some clans, as we have seen in the case of the nara clan practiced the introduction of ancestral spirits, as it is done by real shamans.

It may thus be concluded: the early Manchus were already half-Buddhists, which is more than natural, for their masters, the Mongols, being themselves Buddhists during almost four centuries, culturally influenced the Manchus. In its Mongol and Chinese form Buddhism, officially admitted, was not the same as that which had already penetrated into Manchuria under the Great Leao Dynasty (Kidans); and wandering sramana, changed into samana, had no more access to Manchuria and thus were transformed into Nuichen-Manchu saman, as we known them, e.g. from the epic poem Nisan saman referred to the Ming period in China. Such a transformation might take place as early as the time when the saman was mentioned as Nuichen «sorcerer» and perhaps near the year indicated by the Manchus 1033 A.D., as the moment when first vochko spread over the Manchuria populations.

It not remains to represent the psychological conditions of the process of adaptation to this new complex by the ancestors of the Manchus, and its sweeping extension over an enormous territory. First of all, we see from the history of Buddhism that the new religion was gradually adopted by various ethnical groups, but this process took several centuries before reaching the remote regions of the Amurland. In the same way Christianity spread over the populations of Siberia and finally was totally or partially adopted, even by the groups now living beyond the limits of the former Russian Empire. These facts show us that alien ethnographic complexes may spread and that the process does not take a very long time. Now, what could have been the reaction of the Manchu ancestors when they met with the first propagandists of Buddhism who might have been «missionaries» or merely «adventurers», or at least «clever people» who discovered a new way to earn their living, as it is commonly seen in wandering Chinese monks and lamas. It is very likely that these first introducers of a new complex were samana connected with the declining groups of Central Asia and the Kidans. When they appeared among the population of Manchuria with their teaching about a new and particular kind of spirits — the whole range of bodhisattvas, spirits of the upper and lower world, the Shivaistic complex — whom they could dominate and with whose help they could relieve human miseries; when they showed new methods of curing diseases all new tricks with which most professionals impress the laymen, these populations could neither reject the new complex, nor resist the temptation of learning something new and effective. This attitude we now observe among all peoples, but at that time it was quite easy among the population of Manchuria which was found under a great and varying interethnical pressure. In fact, one after another strong political units were formed which revolutionized the life of the half-hunters, half-fishermen, half-agriculturists of Manchuria. After the introduction of the high Chinese civilization in Bohai, when many students were sent to China, this newly formed unit collapsed under the pressure of a Mongol group of Kidans. The latter pushed their influence to North China, Mongolia and Central Asia and dealt the last blow to the Turks. As soon as they had established themselves in Barin, they were attacked by the Nuichen, who, following the path of their political predecessors within a short period adopted an alien complex chiefly — Chinese — and fell under the pressure of the Mongols [552]. The archeology of Manchuria and of the Amurland shows a picture of these alterations, the rise and collapse of ethnical groups, their sudden increase and sudden decrease, the shifting of political centres and populations, and the extinction of peoples and the complete destruction of their settlements. There was no stability even for a short period of a few centuries, and the role of leading ethnos was handed from one group to another. I cannot go here into details concerning the psychological conditions of the leading ethnical units in states of rise and decline, which, as has been shown in the Introduction, are quite distinct, especially as regards the psychomental stability of the units. But even without such an ethnological discussion, it seems clear that peoples who were undergoing sudden changes and who were so much inclined to learn from their neighbours anything new which might serve for their survival were less stable than any other peoples and formed the best soil for the growth of various complexes built up of elements borrowed from different sources. Were they not looking for explanations of their individual and ethnical misfortunes, which might be so easily connected with the appearance of new spirits, as it is now with the Manchus and Tungus? Being people of strong biological resistance — the proof of which is that most of them survived a series of collapses — could they not try to master and fight these spirits by all means? And was not the now theory of mastering spirits by means known to the ecstatic shamans a naturral issue of the conflict of different complexes which already known during the Mings? Naturally in these conditions a thin social layer of learned Buddhists, who beyond any doubt existed among the upper class of the Kidans, Nuichen, Mongols and Manchus, were reduced to dust and disappeared gradually with every new collapse, and the large masses of the population kept only those elements which could be easily understood and incorporated into the pre-existing complexes. It was just the same as that which happened with the Manchus before our eyes, and it could not be different because of the special conditions of a shaken interethnical equilibrium.

As soon as shamanisn was formed into a complex, it began spreading among the neighbouring peoples, who in their turn were pressed to accept a new enlightenment in the matter of the newly discovered world of spirits and to learn new methods of fighting their own psychomental instability, chiefly produced by a high interethnical pressure and a high tempo of variations. However, if the process of adaptation of shamanism each group introduced its own corrections needed for the adaptation of both the former complex and the newly acquired elements. Together with this process, the original elements were gradually disappearing and the newly acquired ones were modified. With the coming of the new world of spirits the Tungus appeared to be richer in alien spirits than other groups, so they have already begun to reject some of them. «The Russians», — they used to say, — «are happy, because they have very few spirits while we have to fight all kinds of spirits — s'irkul, burkan, seven — which come to us from all sides — from the Mongols, Dahurs, Manchus, Chinese and Russians». I did not try to disprove it, for they probably could not understand the new forms of manifestations of the instability of psychomental complex among the so-called civilized nations and the new forms of its self-regulation. However, the Tungus understand the nature of their spirits no more than the «civilized nations» understand manifestations of their own psychomental complex, especially those units which are undergoing at a high tempo, variations under strong inter-ethnical pressure.

Such were the psychological conditions of the peoples of Manchuria which greatly facilitated the spreading of shamanism evidently northward and eastward from Manchuria.

In our further exposition of facts concerning shamanism we shall meet with another wave which overflew the Tungus. This wave seems to be directly connected with the Yakuts, but many facts seem to indicate to its more southern initial stimulus. This stimulus may be suggested to have been located in the northern confines of the present Mongolia; but historically it must probably be referred to an earlier date than that established by us for Manchuria for the complex which may be supposed to have been «shamanism» (perhaps, for the time being, it will be better to call it «boism» from bo of Mongols?) was defeated by Buddhism in the thirteenth century, while the Uigur phenomenon, in some respects similar to shamanism, perished still earlier. However, the Mongols, and especially the Uigurs had both become familiar with Buddhism much earlier than the eastern group. They were nearer to the centre of Buddhism in Central Asia, and Buddhist missionaries were quite a common phenomenon among them. Perhaps Lamaism had to fight the first shamanistic by-product of the early spread of Buddhism.

I m not personally familiar with the groups of Central Asia and Western Siberia, where «shamanism» is still practiced, and we have no complete analysis of the psychomental complexes of these groups. I shall therefore leave to the specialists — Turkologists and Mongolists — the solution of the question as to the second centre of shamanism affecting the Northern Tungus [553].

Although the above expounded hypothesis of the formation of shamanism under the stimulus of an early Buddhism, with a great number of evidences on which it is based, is in my own eyes almost certain, I cannot consider it as an established fact, as is often done when the inventors wish to be convincing. Whether it be called a fact or not, it does not make a difference, for there are at least two points in my construction which are hypothetic and which I wish to emphasize before leaving this subject. Firstly, I do not know whether there was any ethnical group connected with Manchuria which incorporated Buddhistic monks of Central Asia, who called themselves samane, which I accept as possible, if not probable; and secondly, I do not know at which historic moment the transformation of Central Asiatic «samanism» into «shamanism» occurred. Everything points to the Kidans as the responsible ethnical units; but we have no facts. I set some hopes on the deciphering of Kidan written documents and perhaps on archaeology. But even these documents may not clear up the question, for the process of transformation might have been left unnoticed at all and thus not recorded; and the archaeological evidences may be lacking, as they will be lacking after the extinction of the Tungus who now do not use unperishablse materials. The interpretation of these documents is also not always reliable, as has already happened with the famous discovery of shamanism in quaternary Europe. The evidences of this order, without a thorough knowledge of the psychomental complex, may be quite misleading.

Thus, the origin of shamanism stimulated by Buddhism, as formulated here, will perhaps remain forever a hypothesis, the belief in the correctness of which may increase with the analogies; but its hypothetic character will perhaps not change.

550. Cf. Ch. de Harles, Histoire de l'empire de Kin, p. 136. I now omit the enumeration of social practises pointed out by him. 551. The Tungus of Manchuria suppose that the Dalai Lama is the real master of all burkan and seven and can send them off at will. Many Tungus do not like lamas as a permanent and original source of dissemination of spirits. The ordinary lamas can do this, but only with a great effort and when being in a great number. A case was quoted for proving this. In the valley of the Nonni River there was a Dahur who fell very seriously ill. He could not recover, in spite of the efforts of all shamans. Then i the lamas insisted that he must drown in the Nonni River the placings for the spirit. The man did so and nine lamas «lamaized» (a Tungus werb produced from lama) nine days. The man recovered. The spirits were expelled «for ever».

552. Analogy between the ethnical decline of the Nuichen and Manchus is remarkable, especially in so far as it is manifested in the loss of language.

553. F. A. Rosenberg (op. cit. pp. 378-379) called attention to the fact that in a Christian Sogdian dialect and in Pahlevi used in Turfan, «smn was used for the designation of the Christian «devil», while in Mongol and Uigur shmnu, shimnu, shumnu, according to F. W. Muller (cf Uigurica, 1908, p. 58) and Salemann (cf. Manichaica, V, 1913, p. 1129) were used in the sense of «evil spirits» [cf. Kowalewsky's dictionary; however, in Mongol the situation is complicated by the fact that there are two sources for the complexes originally issued from sramana, i.e. a Central Asiatic, in which sa-man, as stated above, might at least at a certain moment, turn into «evil spirit», and sramana received from the written original documents on Buddhism; the remoteness of borrowing from the Central Asiatic complex greatly hinders the linguistic analysis of existing terms]. The same author draw attention to the relations which existed between Buddhism and shamanism (what kind of shamanism? S. Sh) as it appears from the order of the Uigur Khagan. In fact, in connection therewith it may be pointed out that the shamans' activity among the Yakuts and some Turk (in a mild form reflected in th shamanism of the Reindeer Tungus of Transbaikalia) is some times connected with «par excellence» evil spirits («black shaman»), as opposed to good ones («white shamans»), and the Yakut opinion above quoted as to the first shaman and devil receives a different meaning, which points to a connection between the Central Asiatic «evil variety» of «shamanism».

Электропочта shirokogorov@gmail.com
© 2009 - 2021